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Amboseli National Park Overview

Amboseli National Park, at the foot of Africa's highest mountain, 5895m Kilimanjaro, is one of the most popular of Kenya's national parks. It lies some 240 km south-east of Nairobi very close to the Tanzania border. The snowcapped peak of  Mount Kilimanjaro rising above a saucer of clouds dominates every aspect of Amboseli. Gazetted as a national park in 1974 it covers only 392 sq km but despite its small size and its fragile ecosystem it supports a wide range of mammals (well over 50 of the larger species) and birds (over 400 species). Years ago this was the locale around which such famous writers as Ernest Hemingway and Robert Ruark spun their stories of big-game hunting in the wilds of Africa.

It is also the home of the Maasai people, those tall, proud nomads whose legendary prowess in battle and single handed acts of bravery in fights with wild animals has spread across the globe. Perhaps more than any other community in Kenya the Maasai have learned to live in complete harmony with their environment and the wildlife which surrounds them. All round the park are occupied and abandoned manyatta - Maasai villages - quickly built out of bent poles and sticks and plastered with cow dung and equally swiftly abandoned when the grazing is finished and the herds must move on. A part of the Park is composed of a dried-up lake bed which in the shimmering heat produces mirages. Swamps and springs, fed by underground rivers from Kilimanjaro's melting snows, form permanent watering places for the wildlife through times of drought. The lake bed is subject to sporadic floods and noxious salts in the gravel bed are dissolved to serve as a deadly poison for what is left of the local woods; very few of the fine acacias, once a feature of this region, remain.

The snows of Kilimanjaro, white and crystalline, form a majestic backdrop to one of Kenya's most spectacular displays of wildlife - lion, elephant, leopard, rhino, cheetah, buffalo and hosts of plains' game, creating Kenya's most sought after photographer's paradise. But the Park's popularity is also causing serious concern. The combination of wildlife, tourist vehicles and Maasai cattle are destroying the delicate but precious grassland. Park rules now insist that vehicles stick to roads and tracks. The Park's best game runs are around the swamps and there is a fine lookout on Observation Hill which offers views over the whole of the Park and beyond.

Special thanks to the Kenya Association of Tour Operators for helping ATA TRAVEL develop Kenya parks information.

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